The Tradition of Eating Pumpkins

Pumpkins aren't just for housing wives and carving jack-o’-lanterns. They taste good, too!

by Dani Yokhna
Pumpkins have been an American staple since colonial days and we now make them into an array of delcious treats. Photo by Rachael Brugger (
Photo by Rachael Brugger

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

Have you ever sung the “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater” song? It was first published in Mother Goose’s Quarto, Or Melodies Complete, in Boston, Mass., around 1825. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, it’s the American version of a Scottish nursery rhyme that goes like this:

Peter, my neeper,
Had a wife,
And he couidna’ keep her,
He pat her i’ the wa’,
And lat a’ the mice eat her.

Uzzi and I like the American version best!

Pumpkins aren’t just for housing wives and carving jack-o’-lanterns. They taste good, too! Did you know that pumpkins are loaded with an important antioxidant called beta-carotine that your body converts to vitamin A? Pumpkin is low in calories, high in dietary fiber, and a good source of vitamins and minerals, too.

Native Americans along the East Coast grew pumpkins and taught Colonial Americans to grow and eat them. According to the University of Illinois Extension’s great website Pumpkins and More, colonists sliced the tops off of pumpkins, scooped out the seeds and pulp, and filled them  milk, spices and honey. They baked the pumpkins in ashes on their hearths and though the results were more pudding-like than today’s version, these were the first pumpkin pies

Subscribe now

The Guinness Book of World Records says the largest pumpkin pie ever created weighed 2,020 pounds and measured 12 feet long. It was made by New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest in Ohio on October 8, 2005. They used 1,212 pounds of canned pumpkin, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 2,796 eggs, 7 pounds of salt, 14½ pounds of cinnamon and 525 pounds of sugar to make it.

But cooking with pumpkin doesn’t always mean pie. Just for starters you can make it into soup or chili, pickle it, stuff it, make it into pancakes, or bake it in bread, cake, cupcakesbiscuits or cookies.

According to an article published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the most common way Colonial Americans served pumpkins was to stew them. In 1672, a visitor to New England wrote that, “The Housewives manner is to slice them when ripe, and cut them into dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire a whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions, not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stew’d enough, it will look like bak’d Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger, &c.) which makes it tart like an Apple.”

Pumpkins were so important in Colonial America that poem from the 1630s says:

Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

University of Illinois says that nowadays 90 to 95 percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States are grown in Illinois. Other major pumpkin-growing states are Ohio, Pennsylvania and California. These pumpkins are grown and canned for human food. In the olden days, people grew pumpkins for their animals, too. To feed pumpkins to livestock and poultry, simply break the pumpkins open and let the animals have at them.

We love pumpkins. Yum!  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *